Like all seasonal foods, whose arrival we wait for with fork in hand, the sight of just-picked ears of corn at your local farmers’ market is a reason to celebrate and get into the kitchen (or spark up the grill).
When it’s cooked right, corn’s flavor is delectably sweet, its texture just tender enough, and the mere act of nibbling your way down (or around) the cob makes it a summer rite of passage.
A darling of New England’s farmers and cooks, sweet corn comes in a dizzying number of varieties. Many of us take our corn as is, on the cob, with a sprinkling of salt and slathered with butter. We also love it in classic dishes such as relishes, salads, muffins, fritters, chowders, and more.
The three most popular types of corn in New England are white (such as ‘Silver Queen’), with small, delicate kernels; yellow, with plumper, fuller-flavored kernels; or my favorite, bicolor “butter-and-sugar” corn, which combines the best attributes of both of the others into an irresistibly succulent ear.
This time of year, corn fills the bins at produce stands, straight from local farms, where typically it was picked that same day. (Not the case at supermarkets, which try to lure naive customers with offers of six ears of “fresh” corn for a dollar.) Don’t settle for anything less than the freshest corn you can find; the longer it sits after harvesting, the more its sugar turns to starch, zapping the flavor and making kernels tough.
In fact, if you buy corn that you can’t use right away, blanch it in salted boiling water to stop that sugar-to-starch conversion. You can refresh it in boiling water for corn on the cob, or pop it on the grill for toasted goodness.
Otherwise, just-picked corn needs to cook for only about five minutes in a covered pot of boiling water–or on the grill, husks and all, for about seven minutes, until husks turn slightly brown. Then strip off the husks and silk, bring on the butter and salt, and you’re golden.